Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2015 - Call for Entries

The Call for Entries for The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2015 is now published. This post is an overview of the main points of information and interest for anybody thinking of applying.

PLUS links to the artists who were selected last year, who won and what the exhibition looked like - in 2014 and in previous years - at the end of this post.

OVERVIEW: Call for Entries

This post tells you about:
  • who can enter
  • what you can enter
  • the time table
  • the exhibition


  • The deadline for submissions 5pm, Monday 15th June 2014
  • Entry for the 2015 competition is ONLINE.
  • This is the official information page
  • The top prize is £10,000 and the runner up prizes is also good (£6,000)
  • Those who like painting cityscapes compete for a special prize worth £1,500
  • In 2014
    • 684 works by 361 artists were submitted for consideration by the judges - who selected
    • 93 works (13.6%) by 73 artists (20%)

My recommendation

Have a go and enter two works. The reason being:
  • Those are really good percentages compared to some exhibitions (eg BP Portrait = c. 2% of works submitted are selected) 
  • It costs you nothing more than the entry fee to test out whether your work is good enough to be selected.


You submit your work digitally in the first instance. The judges review the digital images and select those that they'd like to see framed and in person.

The artists are notified as to  whether or not they have passed the first sift of entries. You then get to submit your framed work. The judges review the work selected via the digital entry and decide which paintings should be included in the exhibition. (This is where you can lose out through bad framing)

It's expected that around 100 paintings will be selected and exhibited from the entries - but it partly depends on size. It's typical for some artists to have more than one work selected so it's generally less that 100 artists.

If your work is not included then you need to pick it up later that week

If it is included you'll get an invite to the Artists Preview Evening before the exhibition opens - to which you will either bring your very proud partner or parents or your best friends!

Then if you win I ask you whether I can take a photograph of you with your painting. You say Yes and that's how you get featured on this blog!

Kathryn Maple - with her painting "Fatboys Diner" 
which won the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2014 (£10,000)

- see my blog post Kathryn Maple wins Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2014(all photographs of the exhibition copyright Katherine Tyrrell 
 OK - now for the details!

How to enter

Who can submit entries

  • The competition is open to all artists born or resident in the UK. 
  • There are no age limits for artists wishing to enter.

The rules and guidelines are confusing on this issue

In one part it's "born or resident" - meaning foreign nationals and expats can submit work

In another part it states "born and resident" - meaning neither foreign nationals not expats can submit work.

I suspect it's the former but will check.  I'd also recommend that anybody who falls into the category of neither being born here or born in the UK but not currently resident here should also ask this question.

 What sort of work can be submitted

There are SEVEN conditions for the work you enter.

The artwork MUST be:
  • a painting in a water-based medium (for the record, past exhibitions have included watercolour, gouache, acrylics, inks and egg tempera)
  • carried out in the last three years (that's start to finish - no tweaking old paintings!)
  • all your own work ( the words are "the sole and original work of the entrant") 
  • an entirely original composition (ie no copying other people's bright ideas!)
  • glazed and framed
  • available until the end of April 2016.
The painting MUST:
  • NOT have been previously exhibited; 
  • NOT larger than 122cm on the largest dimension - including the frame
  • NOT be framed using Metal, plastic or clip frames.

How much does it cost?

  • Entry is £15 per work - payable on submission
  • A commission of 40% +VAT is deducted from the value of all sales

STAGE 1: Digital Entry

Entry is digital (form and image) and must be accompanied by payment. Each painting you enter costs £15 and you can pay by Paypal or credit card.

These are the links to:
  • the Online Entry FormNote that the entry form ASSUMES that you have a mobile phone. This has got to be an error and I'll be raising this with the organisers as there are people who refuse to use them!
  • Rules and Conditions - do make sure you read them all the way through. This post highlights only some of the aspects
  • Help and FAQs
The digital image to accompany your digital entry MUST be:
  • resolution: 300dpi
  • maximum file size:500KB.
  • acceptable file formats: JPEGs, TIFFs or PNGs
There is no way you can get a decent image at 300 dpi in a TIFF file and stay under 500KB - unless your work is tiny to start with! I'd therefore recommend you use a JPEG or PNG format.

IMPORTANT - You can submit more than one entry but must ensure that all images are named and numbered to correspond with the list of work/s.

If you've got any queries you should contact Parker Harris who organise and administer the competition


Mark up whatever you keep your important dates on with these dates. The first one is the really important one - miss that and the rest are irrelevant!

Note that submission and collection of framed works at the second stage are on weekdays - which is none too brilliant if you happen to have a full time job.
  • Monday 15th June 2015- Deadline for online entries, by 5pm
  • Tuesday 23rd June 2015 - You should by now have an email to tell you whether or not you've got through the first sift. You've now got two weeks to get your work framed and submitted. You'll be provided with a list of approved carriers who can bring your work to London for you. 
  • Friday 3rd July - This is the deadline for the submission of framed paintings to the FBA in Carlton House Terrace. 
  • Tuesday 7th July - This is the big one - you should have found out whether or not you've been selected by this date
  • Thursday 9th July - and if you've not got in this is the day you need to collect your artwork from the FBA, 10am-5pm.  You incur storage charges of £10 per week or part thereof after that date and will need to collect from Art Moves of Chelsea. 
  • Monday 14th - Saturday 19th September - Exhibition at Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1 10am-5pm
  • September 2015 – Spring 2016 - Smith & Williamson Exhibition tour
  • No date as yet as to when you get your work back.

Judges and Judging

Artists should note that whilst any water-based mediums are acceptable, this competition aims to celebrate and reward excellence and originality in the genre of watercolour painting. The judges will therefore be looking for work that makes the most imaginative or otherwise impressive use of a water based medium in this respect.
The 2015 judges are an odd mix - should be interesting!  They are:
  • Sarah Dudman Artist - age 50, she was selected for the Sunday Times Watercolour Prize Exhibition in 2013 and 2014. She mainly paints in oil but has done some interesting mixed media work of late involving goauche. Not an obvious choice as a Judge for this competition.
  • Desmond Shawe-Taylor CVO Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures
  • Josh Spero Editor, Spear’s Magazine (that's the one for people with high net worth individuals) and Art Critic, Tatler. Very prolific tweeter - this is his Twitter account and he wrote this article Portrait of inequality: why women in the art world earn less than menLast tweet (as opposed to retweet) said I estimate that 85 per cent of my emails are now 'Lovely, thanks, will read'.
  • Lucy Willis Artist - a very popular watercolour painter. Uses traditional watercolours in a traditional way - and everybody loves them!
  • Louis Wise Critic & Writer, The Sunday Times - He's the Assistant Editor of Culture for the Sunday Times. I've looked and I can't find a thing he's written about art and he has a very low to non-existent profile on social media.

Sunday Times Watercolour 2015 Competition Prizes

This is one of the top art competitions in the UK with
  • First Prize - £10,000
  • Second Prize - £6,000
  • Smith & Williamson Cityscape Prize - £1,500
The cover prize seems to have fallen by the wayside.

Exhibition and Tour

  • Mall Galleries 14 - 19 September 2015, The Mall, London, SW1 - Open 10am-5pm daily, free entry. There will be a series of FREE workshops and demonstrations by past and current exhibitors  at the Mall Galleries during the exhibition.
  • Guildford House Art Gallery 21 November - 2 January 2016 155 High Street Guildford, GU1
  • Offices of Smith & Williamson - A selection of works works will be shown at Smith & Williamson officer throughout the UK from September 2015 to Spring 2016. (The company sponsors the exhibition)
Making A Mark posts about the Sunday Times watercolour Exhibition

STWC 2014 Catalogue

I've been covering this competition for some years.

For those wanting to see what the competition was like in previous years..........

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